TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Julio Jones lined up, looked in, then broke from the line of scrimmage.
Hands up, the Alabama wide receiver was ready to haul in the pass, but no ball was thrown.
Just three days after breaking his left hand against South Carolina, Jones could only simulate the act of catching a pass in Tuesday afternoon’s practice.
Wearing the black jersey reserved for injured players withheld from contact drills, Jones went through the motions during the media viewing period.
Later, though, teammates reported the imaginary catches turned into acrobatic ones.
“I think he was catching one-handed passes,” tight end Michael Williams said. “That just tells you what type of player he is.”
But how many did he haul in?
“He catches all of them,” a laughing Williams said.
There were no signs of a cast or major padding on the left hand that had plates and screws implanted after X-rays revealed the broken bone. How soon he returns depends on when he can tolerate the pain of catching a pass, coach Nick Saban said Monday.
The 9 p.m. Saturday visit from Mississippi isn’t out of the possible scenarios in Williams’ head.
“Knowing Julio, I wouldn’t doubt it,” he said. “I wouldn’t doubt it at all.”
While Jones was up and moving, the other injured offensive starter was much less active in practice.
Nursing a “pretty severe” groin injury as Saban called it Monday, right tackle D.J. Fluker walked slowly and with a limp to the exercise bike, where he worked with strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran.
Saban also said Monday that Fluker likely would be sidelined a week at the minimum. Alfred McCullough will replace him in the starting lineup against Mississippi.
Reality sinks in
Now three full days removed from the South Carolina loss, Alabama is moving on while dealing with their new and different position in the conference and national scene.
“You realize you can get beat,” Williams said.
“It’s not just you show up and win because we’re Alabama. For a long time, that’s how people looked at it. We show up. We play. We win just because we’re Alabama. But now, we see on any given night we can get beat, especially in the SEC.”
On Monday, quarterback Greg McElroy said his mind was still racing with the Gamecocks on his mind.
“Usually, we have a 24-hour rule for the wins, but the losses seem to linger a little bit longer,” he said.
“It’s disappointing. I replay decisions, and I replay plays and situations. What if we did this here or that there? … Would the outcome have been different? I’m not really sure, but I think everybody is very disappointed with what happened and it just provides a lot of opportunities to learn and grow.”